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A CurtainUp Review
By Jacob Horn
Fuerzabruta garnered acclaim (and criticism) for its loud, un-nuanced, adrenaline-inducing spectacles showcasing feats of performative endurance enabled by cutting-edge technical components. The show is performed in an intimate space that fosters interaction between the performers and the audience, who stand for the entirely of the performance. New York Times critic Charles Isherwood's review called the show "theater for people who don't really like theater," adding, "The key demographic for 'Fuerzabruta' is probably clubgoing, overstimulated college kids not worried about soiling their togs from H&M."
While Wayra's $100 full-price tickets don't seem to be particularly student-friendly, Isherwood has a point. The show is unrelentingly clubby — you can easily imagine Bill Hader's Saturday Night Live character Stefon describing certain parts ("This club has everything: a pool with a transparent bottom hanging from the ceiling, swimmers pointing and laughing at you, nearly as many harnesses in the room as people..."). The new live music fits into this vibe, too, offering more chances for the performers to dance and mingle with the audience members.
That said, if Wayra is theater for people who don't like theater, it's also a nightclub for people who don't like nightclubs. There's more going on here than just loud bass noises and people hanging from the ceiling (not that there aren't plenty of either!). Notably, the show's creators have resisted ascribing any meaning to the show; in CurtainUp's review of the New York Fuerzabruta (see link below), Les Gutman noted the promotional brochure's profession that "Fuerzabruta doesn't have a purpose. It is."
Fair enough. But I'm a firm believer in reader-response theory and the idea that meaning doesn't simply derive from authorial intent, so I'll nonetheless say that it's hard not to find charged imagery in the show.
Just consider the name: "Brute force." I don't want to give away too much more of the show, but suffice it to say that time and time again, we see a diverse cast of performers subjected to violent forces, both manmade and natural. Some moments even conjure the spectre of sexual violence. And we, the audience, are implicated as well, based on what we watch, what we cheer for, and how we interact with the performers engaging with us.
I won't carry it too far though. Subtext or no subtext, the primary appeal of Wayra is pure spectacle, and that is where it clearly excels, even if it tends to indulge each section of the show for a bit too long. Alberto Figueiras's automation design for the moving set pieces and performers is highly impressive, and the fluid movements of the machinery during the set changes—a Ballet Mécanique of modern theater tech—are as much a part of the evening's entertainment as those of the human cast.
One could take the more cynical viewpoint that Wayra is nothing more than the kind of camera phone–ready, Instagram-friendly product that has increasingly prompted an outcry from critics in the visual art world (like the Rain Room at MoMA last summer). It certainly would have been nice for there to be fewer glowing phone screens and camera flashes (camera use is allowed without flash, but I'd bet on there being at least one rogue flash each performance).
But if you're the sort to get worked up about a cell phone screen's glow, this probably isn't your cup of tea anyway. The show unapologetically craves all the attention it can get from you, and it's not undeserved. It's not everyone's scene, but if you're down for a party, Wayra might be just what you're looking for.
De La Guarda's Villa Villa 1997
Fuerzabruta in London 2006
Fuerzabruta in New York 2007